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Archives 11-16-2005

Sports

Cats run over Roadrunners on way to 3rd round
Lady Wildcats prepared for new basketball season
Cats ready to build on winning foundation


Cats run over Roadrunners on way to 3rd round

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Senior Wilson Cates turns the corner on a big run for LA in Friday's playoff win over the Austin East Roadrunners. Cates rushed for 172 yards in the Wildcats' 18-15 win.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
A 5-yard penalty normally has little effect on the outcome of a football game. The meager 5 yards is usually overcome on the next one or two plays and the game proceeds.

That was not quite the case in Knoxville Friday night as the Livingston Academy Wildcats and the Austin East Roadrunners clashed for the second time this season. This time, it was for the right to advance in the state Class 3A tournament, and a 5-yard setback to the home team late in the second period helped set the stage for Livingston to continue on in its quest for a state championship.

Almost unnoticed at the time, a motion infraction against Austin East with 39 seconds to go in the half nullified a 28-yard field goal by John Woods and forced the kicker to try again from the 33. The first kick split the upright with room to spare, the second try had the height and the distance, but at the last second veered to the left.

The 3 points turned out to be the difference in an 18-15 Wildcats victory.

After the game, LA Head Coach Matt Eldridge explained, "Those three points would have tied the game and forced an overtime, and as explosive as Austin East can be, we certainly didn't want to play them any longer than we had to. It was a heck of a game by both teams, but tonight we came to play four quarters, and with the exception of that first drive where they got a 15-yard penalty added to the kickoff return, we played extremely well all night."

It was certainly a more impressive showing by the Wildcats than in the first meeting of the two teams early in the regular season at Livingston. In that contest, the Roadrunners rolled up 410 yards on offense and put 28 points on the board. This time, they could only bang out 57 on the ground and 128 through the air, and had only managed 14 yards in the entire third period on two pass completions.

Offensive lineman Jacob Coffee said, "We watched a lot of film this week.

"When we played early in the season, they found a weakness in our defense and they used it all night. This time, they couldn't find a weakness, I guess because we didn't really have one. This was the first time this season I think we played four complete quarters of football."

Coffee's assessment was echoed from any player on the Livingston team that one could talk to.

Defensive lineman Ryan Duke said, "They ran over our left side the first time, but not tonight. I've never seen so much film in my life as we saw last week, but we knew what we had to do and we did it tonight. It was a complete team win, and it was probably our best performance of the year."

East put the first points on the board early after taking the opening kickoff back to the 50 yard line. A 15-yard penalty for a low block moved the ball to the Wildcats' 35, and 6 plays later, the Roadrunners were on top 7-0.

But that was to be the high water mark of the home team's offense for the night.

Early in the second period, Mike Jones-LaRue capped a 60-yard Wildcats drive with a 10-yard blast up the middle. Jonathan McGill's PAT attempt went wide left and East led 7-6, and stayed on top for the remainder of the first half.

But the key to the slim margin was the Wildcats defense, who repeatedly gave the ball to the offense. And although they didn't score again in the half, LA held the ball, rolled up 154 yards of offense, and allowed the home team only 47 yards on the ground and 54 in the air.

Defensive lineman Wade Ford beamed after the game, "We knew if we had the ball, they couldn't score. The defense did its job tonight, and the offense moved the ball all over the field. I don't know the time of possession, but I'm sure we had it a lot more than they did."

Livingston ran 55 offensive plays to only 41 for the Roadrunners for the night.

Cates and Company went to work on the second possession of the third period and marched methodically down the field. On the 85-yard drive, the senior standout collected 47 yards on the ground and 13 more in the air. On 2nd and 4 from the 26, the senior quarterback faked a handoff to Jamey Vaughn into the line, cut wide then back inside, and scampered in typical Cates fashion in for the go-ahead score. A run for conversion failed, but Livingston was on top 12-7, and that's where they would stay.

Cates later explained, "Everybody did what they had to do tonight. When we needed yardage, somebody would get it - either Jake (Reeder) or Jamey (Vaughn) or me or whoever. We all know that when we lose, it's over, and we just don't want it to be over.

"We were a totally different team tonight than the one they saw earlier in the season," Cates went on. "We changed our defense, that worked extremely well, and I thought we mixed our offensive plays well tonight.

"It was definitely a total team effort, and everybody on this team can be proud of what they did. Even the guys who didn't get on the field supported us from the sidelines, and that's the mark of a good team."

Early in the fourth period, Vaughn duplicated Cates' earlier touchdown run, going 24 yards almost in the exact footsteps of the signal caller for Livingston's final score of the night. Again, the point-after attempt failed, but Livingston led 18-7 with a little more than 8 minutes remaining.

But the Roadrunners weren't about to fold with that much time left on the clock. On the next series, the home team went to the air and had the ball at their 35 when Jake Peterman stepped in front of a Runner pass for an interception. Then with 5 minutes remaining, the Roadrunner again went to the air and managed to go 70 yards for a score with 3:15 remaining.

They trailed by 3 at 18-15 after a 2-point conversion.

Coach Eldridge said, "I can't tell you how important Jake's interception was. The way they move the ball, they could have scored and then scored that last TD and we would have lost. I'm glad to get out of here."

A "not-to-be-denied" defense killed all hopes the Runners had on the final series when they sacked the quarterback for an 18-yard loss with just 7 seconds left on the clock.

Now in the Elite Eight of Class 3A, Livingston Academy will travel to Knoxville on Friday, Nov. 18 for a rematch with the Fighting Irish of Knoxville Catholic High School, a team that defeated Livingston 24-21 in the regular season.

Vaughn said, "Now it's back to Catholic. It will be another tough game, and it's at their place. We almost beat them early in the season, and if we can continue to play like we played tonight and last week, we'll be just fine."

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Lady Wildcats prepared for new basketball season

Dewain E. Peek/OCN Sports
Members of the 2005-2006 Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats are, kneeling from left, #23 Chelsea Carr, #32 Holli Daily, #10 Ashley Matthews, #20 Mallie Stephens, standing, assistant Penny Reagan, Assistant Coach Lora Franklin, statistician Blair Hill, #24 Rebekah Jackson, #14 Megan Brown, #33 Brittany McCoin, #40 Haley Mullins, #12 Jada Ledbetter, #3 Alison West, statistician Amber Peek, and Coach Lesley Smith. Not pictured are statistician Tiffany Livingston and student assistants Jasmine Dishman, Kristen Williams, and Tabatha Campbell.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Despite having a winning season last year (16-14), Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats Basketball Coach Lesley Smith was happy when it ended and is now excited to get the new season underway.

"There was so much expected of us last year after we won the state championship the year before, and honestly, we struggled last year," Smith explained recently. "It was not for a lack of effort from the kids or the coaching staff; it was just a year where we were having to use almost all new players, and sometimes we thought we had found what we needed to do and the next game it was like we had never played.

"It was my toughest year as a coach. But perhaps I learned from the experience. Anyway, now it's a new season and we're ready to get started."

With two seniors and three juniors returning from last year's starting team, Smith has reason to be optimistic this season. Megan Brown and Haley Mullins will anchor the team from an experience standpoint, and Mallie Stephens, Alison West, and Ashley Matthews will bring some much needed experience to the team.

"We have looked very good in practice," Smith continued. "Most of the players on this team suffered through last season, and they know how tough it can be to struggle. Now they have the court experience, they're more mature, and everybody on this team is in great physical shape."

Several keys to success this season start with the inside play of Mullins. Playing the center position last year, Mullins gradually got better and better despite the fact she was in foul trouble almost every game. Things may be much different this time around.

"Haley had a lot to learn and she was thrown in with little varsity experience," Smith pointed out. "She took her knocks last year, but she learned, and this year, look out.

"Haley will be one of the most outstanding players in the district. She has learned to play defense, and that will make her a much better player."

Brown has sharpened her skill, and Smith said she's now one of the best high-low passers she has ever coached.

"Megan does a lot of things people don't see. She's a hustler, and her rebounding skills have improved tremendously. She will be a big key to our success this year," Smith said.

Ashley Matthews will be called on to take shots and defend on the outer edges. She will run the team from the point guard position, a key to any team.

"Our offense puts a lot of responsibility on the point guard, and Ashley can handle it. Like the other players on this team, she learned a lot from last year and has worked hard to get better. We're looking forward to having her run the offense," Smith continued.

Stephens is perhaps the most athletic player on the team, and, despite the lack of experience, when she's on her game, her skills add tremendously to the squad.

Backing up the starting five is a corps of players from last year, including Jada Ledbetter, Rebekah Jackson, and Brittany McCoin. According to Smith, Ledbetter and Jackson have worked hard over the summer, and McCoin is in the gym every waking hour.

"Jada can shoot the lights out when she finds the range, and Rebekah has really worked on her shooting," Smith said. "And don't send Brittany to the foul line, she'll kill you. These three will see a lot of action, and, as we get into the season, will be key to our success."

Freshman Chelsea Carr and sophomore Holli Daily round out the squad.

"In some of our preseason games we have looked good, and in a couple we have struggled," Smith said. "Early in the season, we'll take a few knocks, but that will be fine because when we hit our stride, we'll be as good as anybody in the district.

"We will be very aggressive on defense, and we have the depth this season to do that," the coach said. "We can score inside and out, and with a strong defense, we will be hard to handle. Our confidence is up, and physically, we are in much better shape than last year."

Smith sees York, with Brandi Brown, as a strong opponent, and Smith County, with two outstanding seniors, as also strong, especially early in the season.

Team manager Tiffany Livingston has earned a scholarship to Tennessee Tech next year.

"That's icing on the cake," Smith concluded. "Tiffany played one year here, then wanted to be the team manager, and her hard work has paid off. We are all so happy for her, and glad we have her here one more season."

Assisting Smith this season will be Lora Franklin.

The Lady Wildcats will start play at the Pickett County Hall of Fame on Saturday, Nov. 19. At press time, one team has pulled out of the event, leaving Livingston to play on the second night.

The Lady Wildcats will return to Byrdstown on Tuesday, Nov. 22 to take on the Pickett County Lady Bobcats. The Lady Cats will begin district play on Friday, Dec. 2 at home against Macon County. All home games will get underway at 6:30 p.m.

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Cats ready to build on winning foundation

Dewain E. Peek/OCN Sports
Members of the 2005-2006 Livingston Academy Wildcats basketball team are, kneeling from left, managers Cody Shokoui and Emily Norrod, #31 Keifer Smith, #20 Brandon Matthews, #5 Tyler Smith, #4 Clint West, #24 Chase Dunn, #12 Todd Smith, #3 Wilson Cates, manager Jeremy Murphy, standing, Assistant Coach Dusty Whitaker, manager Seth Melton, #22 Blake Vaughn, #23 Tyson Stover, #25 Jeremy McLearran, #52 Deven Ramsey, #42 Justin Monday, #43 Lance Ruble, #33 Tyler Livingston, #32 Kalihib Lander, manager Kevin Scott, and Coach Richard Melton.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
After winning 75% of his games as the boys coach at Allons Elementary School over the past six years, Richard Melton has returned to the scene where he scored 2,250 points during an outstanding high school career, now as head coach.

"It's just great to be here," Melton explained recently. "I went to school here. I played ball here and I know almost everyone here. So it's not much of a transition for me or the players. That's the easy part.

"Now, as head coach, it's my responsibility to carry on the winning tradition of Livingston Academy, plus let these young men enjoy just playing to the best of their abilities."

Melton follows Danny McCoin as head coach of the Wildcats. McCoin stepped down following last year's season to do other things. In his final season, McCoin's chargers won the district's regular season championship and the district tournament. They lost in the first round of regional play, and finished with a 27-8 final record.

"Danny did a great job here, and he has helped me tremendously to make the transition. Plus, he left me some fine players to start off with," Melton added. "We have six seniors off last year's team returning and three juniors, one of which saw action.

"In addition to that, I coached eight of these players at Allons and two others in AAU ball. Most of the players know me and I know them, and that's great."

Graduation took several key players from last year's squad, including center Matt Reeder, forward Brian Colson, and outside shooter Brad West, but Melton feels he has the nucleus to build another title contending team around.

Lance Ruble, Justin Monday, Tyler Livingston, Brandon Matthews, and Tyler Smith all saw considerable action last season in back-up rolls. Matthews was a starter, but injured his foot in Christmas tournament action and had to sit out most of the remainder of the season.

"And then there's Wilson (Cates)," the coach continued. "What can you say about Wilson that hasn't already been said? He's just a great, great athlete, and hopefully this year we can let him enjoy his senior year a little by not putting so much pressure on him.

"Wilson is a total competitor, and when things seem to be going the wrong way, he will take it on himself to try and save the day. That's what every coach wants in a player, but hopefully, this season, we can make it so that he can just enjoy playing."

At 6'0", Cates was last year's "all everything" in the district and the tournament, and this year will again be called on as the team leader, a role he has fulfilled since his freshman year.

Surrounding Cates will be Ruble at 6'1", Monday, 6'3", Livingston, 6'1" and Matthews at 6'0". Tyson Stover, Kalihib Lander, and Blake Vaughn will add support along with sophomores Jeremy McLearran at 6'5" and Todd Smith, Ňone of the best playmakers I've ever coached," Melton said.

Freshmen are where Melton feels his Wildcats add spark.

"Normally, freshmen sit on the bench and cheer," the coach went on. "Not this group. We have 6'6" Deven Ramsey, Kiefer Smith, Clint Walker, and Chase Dunn. These kids will play and play a lot.

"Dunn is 5'7", but he's a natural. He can shoot and he can handle the ball. And Ramsey is big and strong, and we intend to be very physical this year. So he fits right into our plans.

"I took the team into the gym the other day and we looked at the banners, and I told them that every one of those teams were like a family. They ate together, played together, helped each other out, everything brothers do, and that was the key to their success.

"When this team gels, it will be a very good team. That's our goal early.

"I'm sure we'll make mistakes early in the season, but by Christmas, I expect us to be as strong as any team in the district.

"I expect a lot out of myself and I expect a lot out of these young men. They know me, and that's the good news. I work hard and expect them to do the same. And they have, and they seem to be loving it.

"We really get after it in practice, and the harder we play, the more they like it. I can't wait for the season to start," Melton added.

If the Wildcats have a weakness this year, it will be in size and playing experience. Although several of the players were on the team for the past few years, they played mainly a backup role.

"Now it's their turn," Melton concluded. "And I believe they will do well.

"We have a good group that want to work hard, love to practice, and are chomping at the bit to get into real playing time. There's a lot of talent here, and we expect to see it peak before the holidays."

Melton expects DeKalb and York to be strong in the district along with his Wildcats. Action will get underway next weekend at the Pickett County Hall of Fame invitational set for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19.

The Wildcats will return to Byrdstown on Tuesday, Nov. 22 to play the Pickett County Bobcats in a non-district game.

District action will get underway on Friday, Dec. 2 when Macon County comes to Livingston. Other teams in the district this year in addition to DeKalb County, York Institute, and Macon County will be Upperman, Smith County, Cannon County, and Clay County.

Melton will be assisted this season by Dusty Whitaker, who will be entering his second full- season as assistant coach.

 

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